The Best Down Alternative Pillows, According To Sleep Experts


The best down alternative pillows combine plush comfort with reliable support, using animal-friendly materials to achieve a light and fluffy feel that can maintain its shape over time. Our sleep experts especially love the down alternative pillow byBoll & Branch because it mimics the warm weight and fluffy loft of real down. Read on for the rest of our top picks in 2024.

We’re no strangers to good sleep at Forbes Vetted, and we have dozens of extensively-researched mattress and pillow stories to prove it.

In addition to deeply researching popular and highly-rated down alternative pillows for this article, we corresponded with industry experts for their insight and recommendations. Along with Golub, vice president of product and merchandising at Saatva, we also interviewed other industry experts, including Susana Saeliu, co-founder and CEO of the pillow company Pluto, textile expert Parima Ijaz and Christian Fabbri, an executive manager at Sobel Westex.

To assemble our recommendations for the best down alternative pillows, we researched popular brands and took a close look at materials and options. We prioritized those with certifications that indicate a high level of safety, like Oeko-Tex. We combed through customer reviews and narrowed our selections to pillows with at least 4.4 stars. Since it’s impossible to really judge a pillow until you’ve slept on it, we also made sure that our picks come with a return window of at least 30 days.

“Down alternative is a great vegan, budget-friendly fill option that essentially mirrors the comforting texture quality and warmth of genuine down,” says Ijaz. But just as down fill varies, so do down alternatives, she cautions. Here’s what to keep in mind as you consider your options.

“The durability, support and pressure relief capabilities of a pillow are significantly influenced by the quality of the materials used in its construction,” says Golub. He adds that low-quality fill materials can initially feel welcoming, but they often deteriorate quickly. “Cotton and polyfill tend to clump and break down faster, making them prone to shifting, bunching, compressing and sinking,” adds Saeliu. To ensure you’re getting a down alternative fill that perfoms well over the long run, both Saeliu and Fabbri recommend premium microfiber or gel fiber, which are more durable and designed specifically to mimic the properties of authentic down.

Don’t overlook the cover, either. Look for a soft, breathable and durable material, like 100% cotton.

Many down alternative pillows are labeled as hypoallergenic, but that’s not necessarily the case unless your allergies are triggered by down or dust mites. If you’re looking for a pillow that won’t set off your allergies, take a close look at the materials used in the alternative fill before making a purchase. Make sure to buy a pillow that can be machine washed as well.

Regardless of fill, a great pillow is one that meets your preferences for comfort and support. “It’s important to take into consideration how much support you are looking for in a pillow, how much fluff and flexibility you prefer, as well as your usual sleeping position,” explains Ijaz. Remember to factor for the characteristics of down alternatives as you consider things like loft and firmness.

“Given than down alternative pillows tend to flatten under pressure, consider opting for a pillow with a slightly higher loft,” recommends Golub. He adds that most down alternative pillows offer a medium level of support, which should be sufficient for most sleepers. “They’re also easy to shape and position, which can help bolster the neck,” he says.

All of the experts I corresponded with for this piece had the same advice for breaking in a pillow: Sleep on it! “Give it a couple of punches, kneads and smacks, as this can help break up some of the materials a little bit,” advises Saeliu. The more you fluff, bunch or squish your pillow to your liking, the faster you break it in.

Down alternatives can certainly offer similar softness, comfort and support as real down, but the better option really depends on your preferences. Traditional down is soft and luxurious with a lofty, airy, cradling effect that gives you the sensation you’re resting on a cloud. “However, it is not hypoallergenic, contains animal products, and is typically more expensive than other options on the market,” points out Golub. If you’re allergic to down or feathers, you live a vegan lifestyle, or you’re looking for a budget-friendly buy, down alternative is the better option.

Down pillows are often considered a luxury item and come with a corresponding cost, says Golub. Maintenance needs can be more involved as well, since not all down pillows should be machine washed. Natural down also tends to trap and retain heat, which can be problematic if you tend to sleep warm. The insulating properties of down can lead to a sweaty head and a damp pillow, which means a ripe breeding ground for dust mites and mold.

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